NDP Education Critic Carla Beck called for the replacement of Education Minister Dustin Duncan on Monday following what she called a pattern of questionable behavior.
Beck criticized Duncan for his handling of a recent media conference where he said the government consulted with education sector stakeholders before making a decision on return to school protocols. On Monday, Beck accused Duncan of misrepresenting those discussions, and called on Premier Scott Moe to replace Duncan with someone who will do their job.
“Unfortunately this Education Minister has completely lost the confidence of those in education at a time when we need leadership the most,” Beck told reporters.
“What we need is a plan to keep students in class and a minister who is up for the job and we have neither. Instead we have an Education Minister, the only one in the country, who hasn’t taken an additional step to protect students and staff in our schools.
“This is an Education Minister who has prioritized local politics over student safety,” she added referencing his letter in November to school board chairs.
During a press conference on Jan. 5, Duncan claimed he had consulted divisions and school boards on return to classes. This was directly contradicted by SSBA President Shawn Davidson, who said there was never any indication from the government that they were contemplating responding to Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation request to delay the return to class by two days.
The NDP called this the latest in a string on bad leadership from Duncan that included ignoring a back-to-school plan from public health experts for the 2021-2022 school year
“In the fall we saw him download responsibility for safety measures to local school boards, only to later use his role to strong arm local medical health officers and school boards when those policies interfered with his local politics,” Beck said.
They added that unlike every other education minister in Canada, Duncan sent kids back to class after the holidays without delays or protective measures.
“Simply put, when you don’t do your job you don’t get to keep your job,” Beck said. “It’s as simple as that and government ministers should not be an exception. I have been in contact with leadership within the education sector and this minister has completely lost their trust.”
Beck argued that there have been numerous close contacts in schools while Duncan continues to sit on his hands and do nothing,
“The health and safety of our students and staff need to be number one and the number one priority not politics,” she said. “he Premier needs to appoint someone who will take this position seriously and will take active steps to reduce the spread of infection within our schools so our staff and students can learn in a safe environment.”
In addition to calling for the Premier to replace Duncan, Beck called for the province to urgently take safety precautions outlined in the NDP’s Safe School Strategy to ensure schools can safely stay open.
“Minister Duncan has sadly shown that he is clearly not up to the job and he needs to step aside and let someone who is willing to act take over. The priority needs to be keeping kids in class and that requires a plan. We have laid out our recommendations in our Safe School Strategy to this government to achieve it. It is time this government stop politicking and time they prioritize student safety,” Beck said.
In an email to media later in the day, the government dismissed Beck’s claims as mere partisanship.
“While the NDP continue to play politics by taking pointless and gratuitous cheap shots at Cabinet Ministers, Education Minister Dustin Duncan spent the day doing precisely what he was appointed to do: working with and for the education sector,” the release reads.
“In fact, both Premier Moe and Minister Duncan were in northern Saskatchewan today meeting with the La Loche school community and celebrating progress made towards their new school. Much like the teachers and staff in schools across the province, our government’s focus will continue to be on supporting our students.”